From 1966 until his passing in 1977, Srila Prabhupada's life was one of almost constant intercontinental travel: meeting world leaders, perpetually giving lectures and interviews, providing spiritual guidance for thousands of young disciples, and overseeing almost all aspects of managing a global spiritual movement. Yet he considered book publishing his life's mission.
Wherever in the world he was, he would rise many hours before dawn each day and devote his full attention to translating and composing commentaries on the Vedas' most sacred texts. Some of his major literary works include:
- The 18,000 verse, twelve volume Srimad-Bhagavatam, an epic Sanskrit history of Krishna's incarnations, pastimes and devotees.
- The Bhagavad-gita, Krishna's foundational instructions to humankind regarding the purpose of life and how to achieve ultimate success in this world and the next.
- The Chaitanya Charitamrita, a nine volume Bengali biography of the life and teachings of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the divine avatar who began the mission to spread Krishna consciousness.
- The Nectar of Devotion, a summary study of Rupa Goswami's classic Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, an detailed look at the science of bhakti-yoga, devotional service to the Supreme Person.
- Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Srila Prabhupada's complete commentary on the tenth canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, describing the specific pastimes of Krishna Himself when He visited the earth.
When composing his own purports, Srila Prabhupada routinely consulted and included insights from other important authorities' commentaries, including the work of Baladeva Vidyabhushana, Rupa Goswami, Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakur, Sridhara Swami, and others.
His books, now published by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust in 57 languages, now comprise over 80 volumes, with over a billion copies sold.
In 1966, Srila Prabhupada established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), also known as the Hare Krishna Movement, with the following purposes:
- To systematically propagate spiritual knowledge to society at large and to educate all people in the techniques of spiritual life in order to check the imbalance of values in life and to achieve real unity and peace in the world.
- To propagate a consciousness of Krishna (God), as it is revealed in the great scriptures of India, Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
- To bring the members of the Society together with each other and nearer to Krishna, the prime entity, thus developing the idea within the members, and humanity at large, that each soul is part and parcel of the quality of Godhead (Krishna).
- To teach and encourage the sankirtana movement, congregational chanting of the holy name of God, as revealed in the teachings of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
- To erect for the members and for society at large holy places of transcendental pastimes dedicated to the personality of Krishna.
- To bring the members closer together for the purpose of teaching a simpler, more natural way of life.
- With a view towards achieving the aforementioned purposes, to publish and distribute periodicals, magazines, books and other writings.
From a single storefront temple on 2nd Avenue in Manhattan, New York City, in 1966, ISKCON has grown to over 500 temples, centers, restaurants, schools and farm communities worldwide serving several hundred thousand members.
An Exemplary Life
Srila Prabhupada taught by example. For the last part of his life, he led the austere life of a sannyasi, a renunciate, and displayed great humility, never taking undue personal credit for his accomplishments. “My only credit,” he said, “is that I have strictly followed the order of my guru.” His spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, had instructed him to preach the message of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in English and “whenever you get money, print books.”
Srila Prabhupada arrived in the West with only $7 and a trunk filled with books about Krishna. He preached the chanting of the holy names of Krishna with full conviction. Gradually, people felt attracted to the chanting and to “Swamiji” and his mission: to spread Krishna consciousness, the original consciousness of the soul. You can get a glimpse into who Srila Prabhupada was and see the life he led on the many hours of film footage available at the Krishna.com Store: Srila Prabhupada Videos.
The Bhaktivedanta Institute
To establish the scientific merits of Krishna Consciousness and to encourage academic study of the soul, Srila Prabhupada established the Bhaktivedanta Institute (BI). Staffed by devotee scholars, the BI has published several books on the nature of consciousness, Vedic Cosmology, and the origins of the human race. The Institute has twice gathered renowned scientists for a World Congress on the Synthesis of Science and Religion.
The Bhaktivedanta Swami Charity Trust
Srila Prabhupada started the Bhaktivedanta Swami Charity Trust to revive and restore some of the important Gaudiya Vaishnava shrines in India. Several temples in Vrindavan and Mayapur are under the Trust’s care.
Spiritual Food Distribution
Srila Prabhupada taught that food prepared with loving intent as an offering to Krishna becomes sanctified and can uplift the consciousness of spiritually destitute people from the miseries of this world. Distribution of prasadam, sanctified food, is a major outreach activity of the Hare Krishna movement. ISKCON centers hold free Sunday Feasts for the public once a week and at periodic festivals throughout the calendar year. In addition, Srila Prabhupada desired that nobody within a ten-mile radius of a Hare Krishna temple should go hungry. To this end, temples in India and around the world have set up programs for the free distribution of sanctified food to the needy.
Srila Prabhupada introduced the western world to the sublime benefits of chanting the holy names of Krishna in the form of the maha-mantra, or great chant for deliverance:
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare
Translation: “O Energy of God [Hare], O All-Attractive Supreme Personality of Godhead [Krishna], O Reservoir of Pleasure [Rama], please engage me in Your service!”
Srila Prabhupada said that this mantra should be chanted just like a child calling for its mother. It can be chanted at any time for relief from the miseries of material existence and to develop our love of God.